Graphic organisers – a large number of usually paper-based tools that help students to visualise the relationships between facts, concepts, problems, themes or ideas.
Graphic organisers have been used by teachers for many years. While there are many types, they all have one thing in common: they organise information in one way or another. Graphic organisers show the relationship between one idea and another. They help learners to organise their thoughts, ideas, facts, understanding or beliefs all on a single page. While you can invent your own graphic organiser, there are many types that already exist including the fashionable KWL charts outlined in the previous strategy. Other popular graphic organisers include:
Other types of graphic organisers include chains, ladders, sequences, processes, hierarchies, story webs, character organisers, brainstorms, jigsaws, storyboards and timelines.
You may also hear the term ‘advanced organiser’. Advanced organisers are a type of graphic organiser that are used ‘in advance’ of an activity (such as before students begin reading a new book). The KWL chart is an example of an advanced organiser. They help students to think about how and what to learn before starting an activity.
Graphic organisers show the relationship between one idea and another. They help learners to organise their thoughts, ideas, facts, understanding or beliefs all on a single page.
The main benefit of using graphic organisers is that they help learners to organise their thoughts, ideas and concepts in a visual way. Being able to visually see how aspects of a topic are related helps learners to more easily make sense of the topic. They can also speed up the learning process by helping students to identify and fill gaps in their skills, knowledge and understanding. Finally, graphic organisers are commonly used to support students with disabilities, particularly those with learning and neurological disabilities.
You can easily make your own graphic organisers. For example, suppose your class is learning about farm animals. Ask students to draw a circle in the middle of the page and sketch an animal. Then ask them to divide their page into 4 quarters to make statements about their animal. In the first box, direct students to write ‘I like to eat…’ as a title. In the second box, ask students to write ‘During the day I like to…’ and so forth until you have relevant sentence starters for all 4 boxes. Students should be encouraged to finish each sentence with as much detail as possible. Volunteers can be called to show and tell the class what they have written.
Graphic organisers are not only used by students. For example, project managers use Gantt Charts to plan out complex long-term projects. Fishbone (Ishikawa) diagrams are used to visually show and categorise the reasons for product defects, machine failure or other issues. An array of graphs, tables and charts are used in reports and research papers. Primary and high school students can also use these types of graphic organisers for various purposes. Finally, GUIs (or graphic user interfaces) are used privately (such as for fitness trackers) and in the workplace (such as for sales data). GUIs are simply a collection of multiple graphic organisers that summarise and show data in a user-friendly way.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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